Category  |  Christian Life

Hidden Mysteries

Most of what goes on in the universe we never see. Many things are too small or move too fast or even too slow for us to see. Using modern technology, however, filmmaker Louis Schwartzberg is able to show stunning video images of some of those things—a caterpillar’s mouth, the eye of a fruit fly, the growth of a mushroom.

            Our limited ability to see the awesome and intricate detail of things in the physical world reminds us that our ability to see and understand what’s happening in the spiritual realm is equally limited. God is at work all around us doing things more wonderful than we can imagine. But our spiritual vision is limited and we cannot see them. The prophet Elisha, however, actually got to see the supernatural work that God was doing. God also opened the eyes of his fearful colleague so he too could see the heavenly army sent to fight on their behalf (2 Kings 6:17).

            Fear makes us feel weak and helpless and causes us to think we are alone in the world. But God has assured us that His Spirit in us is greater than any worldly power (1 John 4:4).

            Whenever we become discouraged by the evil we can see, we need to think instead about the good work God is doing that we cannot see.

The Challenge of Transition

After former professional athlete Chris Sanders suffered a career-ending injury, he told a group of military veterans that although he had never experienced combat, “I understand the pressures of transitions.”

            Whether it’s the loss of a job, the loss of a marriage, a serious illness, or a financial setback, every major change brings challenges. The former athlete told the soldiers that the key to success when you are transitioning into a new way of living is to reach out and get help.

            The book of Joshua is recommended reading whenever we find ourselves in transition. After 40 years of wandering and setbacks, God’s people were poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses, their great leader, had died, and Joshua, his assistant, was in charge.

            God told Joshua to “be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7). God’s words of direction were to be the bedrock of Joshua’s leadership in every situation.

             The Lord’s charge and promise to Joshua apply to us as well: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (v. 9).

            He is with us in every transition.

Look at the Tassels

Best-selling author Chaim Potok began his novel The Chosen by describing a baseball game between two Jewish teams in New York City.  Reuven Malter, the book’s main character, notices that the opposing players’ uniforms have a unique accessory—four long ropelike tassels that extend below each teammate’s shirt. Reuven recognizes the tassels as a sign of strict obedience to God’s Old Testament laws.

            The history of these fringes—known as tzitzit—began with a message from God. Through Moses, God told His people to create tassels containing some strands of blue thread and attach them to the four corners of their top garments (Num. 15:38). God said, “You may look upon [the tassels] and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them” (v. 39).

God’s memory device for the ancient Israelites has a parallel for us today. We can look at Christ who consistently kept the whole law in our place and obeyed His heavenly Father (John 8:29). Having received His work on our behalf, we now “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts” (Rom. 13:14). Keeping our eyes on God’s Son helps us to honor our heavenly Father.

Wise Words

What is the strongest muscle in the human body? Some say it’s the tongue, but it’s hard to determine which muscle is the most powerful because muscles don’t work alone.

            But we do know that the tongue is strong. For a small muscle, it can do a lot of damage. This active little muscular organ that helps us eat, swallow, taste, and begin digestion has a tendency to also assist us in saying things we shouldn’t. The tongue is guilty of flattery, cursing, lying, boasting, and harming others. And that’s just the short list.

            It sounds like a pretty dangerous muscle, doesn’t it? But here’s the good thing: It doesn’t have to be that way. When we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, our tongues can be turned to great good. We can speak of God’s righteousness (Ps. 35:28) and justice (37:30). We can speak truth (15:2), show love (1 John 3:18), and confess sin (1 John 1:9).

            The writer of Proverbs 12:18 spells out one of the best uses of the tongue: “The tongue of the wise brings healing” (niv). Imagine how we could glorify the One who made our tongues when He helps us use it to bring healing—not harm—to everyone we talk to.

Our Anchor

After Estella Pyfrom retired from teaching, she bought a bus, decked it out with computers and desks, and now drives the “Brilliant Bus” through Palm Beach County, Florida, providing a place for at-risk children to do their homework and learn technology. Estella is providing stability and hope to children who might be tempted to throw away their dream for a better tomorrow.

            In the first century, an avalanche of suffering and discouragement threatened the Christian community. The author of Hebrews wrote to convince these followers of Christ not to throw away their confidence in their future hope (2:1). Their hope—a faith in God for salvation and entrance into heaven—was found in the person and sacrifice of Christ. When Jesus entered heaven after His resurrection, He secured their hope for the future (6:19-20). Like an anchor dropped at sea, preventing a ship from drifting away, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and return to heaven brought assurance and stability to the believers’ lives. This hope for the future cannot and will not be shaken loose.

            Jesus anchors our souls, so that we will not drift away from our hope in God.

What Is That to You?

Social media is useful for many things, but contentment is not one of them. At least not for me. Even when my goals are good, I can become discouraged by continual reminders that others are accomplishing them first or with greater results. I am prone to this kind of discouragement, so I frequently remind myself that God has not short-changed me. He has already given me everything I need to accomplish the work He wants me to do.

            This means I don’t need a bigger budget or the assurance of success. I don’t need a better work environment or a different job. I don’t need the approval or permission of others. I don’t need good health or more time. God may give me some of those things, but everything I need I already have, for when He assigns work He provides the resources. My only assignment is to use whatever time and talents He has given in a way that blesses others and gives God the glory.

            Jesus and Peter had a conversation that got around to this subject. After making breakfast on the shore of Galilee, Jesus told Peter what would happen at the end of his life. Pointing at another disciple, Peter asked, “What about him?” Jesus responded, “What is that to you?”

            That is the question I need to ask myself when I compare myself to others. The answer is, “None of my business.” My business is to follow Jesus and be faithful with the gifts and opportunities He gives to me.

Deceptive Currents

In his book The Hidden Brain, science writer Shankar Vedantam describes the day he went for a leisurely swim. The water was calm and clear, and he felt strong and proud for covering a long distance so easily. He decided to swim out of the bay and into open water. But when he tried to return he couldn’t make any progress. He had been deceived by the current. The ease of swimming had not been due to his strength but to the movement of the water.

            In our relationship with God something similar can happen. “Going with the flow” can lead us to believe we’re stronger than we are. When life is easy, our minds tell us that it’s due to our own strength. We become proud and self-confident. But when trouble hits, we realize how little strength we have and how helpless we are.

            This happened with the Israelites. God would bless them with military success, peace, and prosperity. But thinking they had achieved it on their own, they would then become proud and self-sufficient (Deut. 8:11-12). Assuming that they no longer needed God, they would go their own way until an enemy attacked and they would realize how powerless they were without God’s help.

            When life is going well we too need to beware of self-deception. Pride will take us where we do not want to go. Only humility will keep us where we ought to be—grateful to God and dependent on His strength.

My Father Is with Me

A friend struggling with loneliness posted these words on her Facebook page: “It’s not that I feel alone because I have no friends. I have lots of friends. I know that I have people who can hold me and reassure me and talk to me and care for me and think of me. But they can’t be with me all the time—for all time.”

            Jesus understands that kind of loneliness. I imagine that during His earthly ministry He saw loneliness in the eyes of lepers and heard it in the voices of the blind. But above all, He must have experienced it when His close friends deserted Him (Mark 14:50).

            However, as He foretold the disciples’ desertion, He also confessed His unshaken confidence in His Father’s presence. He said to His disciples: “[You] will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32). Shortly after Jesus said these words, He took up the cross for us. He made it possible for you and me to have a restored relationship with God and to be a member of His family.

            Being humans, we will all experience times of loneliness. But Jesus helps us understand that we always have the presence of the Father with us. God is omnipresent and eternal. Only He can be with us all the time, for all time.

Something New

It was only scrap wood, but Charles Hooper saw much more than that. Salvaging old timbers from a long-abandoned corncrib, he sketched some simple plans. Then he felled a few oak and poplar trees from his wooded property and painstakingly squared them with his grandfather’s broadax. Piece by piece, he began to fit together the old lumber with the new.

            Today you can see Charles and Shirley Hooper’s postcard-perfect log cabin, tucked away in the trees on Tennessee Ridge. Part guesthouse, part museum for family heirlooms, the structure stands as an enduring tribute to Charles’ vision, skill, and patience.

            Writing to a Gentile audience, Paul told the church at Ephesus how Jesus was creating something new by bringing together Jewish and non-Jewish believers as a single entity. “You who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” Paul wrote (Eph. 2:13). This new structure was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (vv. 20-21).

            The work continues today. God takes the brokenness of our lives, artfully fits us together with other broken and rescued people, and patiently chips away our rough edges. He loves His work, you know.

The Gift Of Tears

Icalled a longtime friend when his mother died. She had been a close friend of my mother, and now both had passed on. As we spoke, our conversation slipped easily into a cycle of emotion—tears of sorrow now that Beth was gone and tears of laughter as we recalled the caring and fun person she had been.

Mysterious Ways

When my son began attending Chinese language classes, I marveled at the papers he brought home after his first session. As a native English speaker, it was difficult for me to understand how the written characters related to the spoken words. The language seemed incredibly complex to me—almost incomprehensible.

I’m Stumped

The riddle stumped me: What is greater than God—and more evil than the devil? The poor have it. The rich need it. And if you eat it you will die.

Marked By His Name

In July 1860, the world’s first nursing school opened at St. Thomas Hospital in London. Today that school is part of the King’s College, where nursing students are called Nightingales. The school—like modern nursing itself—was established by Florence Nightingale, who revolutionized nursing during the Crimean War. When prospective nurses complete their training, they take the “Nightingale Pledge,” a reflection of her ongoing impact on nursing.

Calming The Storm

While Hurricane Katrina headed toward the coast of Mississippi, a retired pastor and his wife left their home and went to a shelter. Their daughter pleaded with them to go to Atlanta where she could take care of them, but the couple couldn’t get any money to make the trip because the banks were closed. After the storm had passed, they returned to their home to get a few belongings, and were able to salvage only a few family photos floating in the water. Then, when the man was taking his father’s photo out of its frame so it could dry, $366 fell out—precisely the amount needed for two plane tickets to Atlanta. They learned they could trust Jesus for what they needed.

Our Strength And Song

Often called “The March King,” composer and band director John Philip Sousa created music that has been played by bands around the world for more than a hundred years. As Loras John Schissel, music historian and conductor of the Virginia Grand Military Band, said, “Sousa is to marches what Beethoven is to symphonies.” Sousa understood the power of music to motivate, encourage, and inspire people.

Chipmunk Chatter

Ihad laid out some landscape netting in my yard, upon which I was going to spread decorative stones. As I was preparing to finish the job, I noticed a chipmunk tangled up in the netting.

Stuck In The Mud

We were absolutely stuck! While I was laying the wreath in place on my parents’ grave, my husband eased the car off the road to allow another car to pass. It had rained for weeks and the parking area was sodden. When we were ready to leave, we discovered that the car was stuck. The wheels spun, sinking further and further into the mud.

Wisdom Seekers

Every spring colleges and universities hold commencement ceremonies to celebrate the success of students who have completed their studies and earned their degrees. After the students cross the stage, these graduates will enter a world that will challenge them. Just having academic knowledge won’t be good enough. The key to success in life will be in wisely applying everything they have learned.

New Start For A Broken Heart

The Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, is filled with anonymously donated remnants of love gone wrong. There is an axe that a jilted lover used to destroy the furniture of an offending partner. Stuffed animals, love letters framed in broken glass, and wedding dresses all speak volumes of heartache. While some visitors to the museum leave in tears over their own loss, some couples depart with hugs and a promise not to fail each other.

Guard Your Focus

That’s my disciple,” I once heard a woman say about someone she was helping. As followers of Christ we are all tasked with making disciples—sharing the good news of Christ with people and helping them grow spiritually. But it can be easy to focus on ourselves instead of Jesus.